Saturday Night Live: Charlize Theron and the Black Keys
May 11, 2014 7:05 AM - Season 39, Episode 20 - Subscribe

A perfectly acceptable episode, using Theron well enough and featuring a Weekend Update guest we didn't know we've been waiting for since the 1970s.

Cold Open: Mother's Day message from Michelle Obama (Sasheer Zamata) and Hillary Clinton (Vanessa Bayer, who apparently thinks that Sec. Clinton's salient feature is that she SHOUTS). Middle-of-the-pack cold open that passed the Bechdel Test handily.

Monologue: Charlize Theron can't sing, prompted by a story from her last hosting gig in 2000 (I could have sworn she hosted when Prometheus came out). The song-and-dance monologue numbers are becoming stultifyingly predictable.

Come Do a Game Show With Your Mom, It'll Be Fun, Yes It Will: We're almost at the point where the game show sketch is as key to the format as the political cold open and the monologue. This one had Kate McKinnon as Everymom, doing Everymom things like asking "Who's that actor I like?" to her kids as contestants. Nothing wrong with this skit, but it pales in comparison to the great game shows of the past, and it didn't use Theron in a way that any female cast member couldn't have done.

Girlfriends Talk Show: Theron as the guest, a too-cool-for-school (literally) art teacher. As Abraham Lincoln said the first time Girlfriends Talk Show aired, "If you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you'll like."

HBO First Look: Dragon Babies: Splitsider did a pretty good takedown of SNL's overall arc of the past few years called "Is 'Saturday Night Live' Becoming 'Saturday Night Pretaped'? that hits this sketch right in the gut. There's nothing wrong with it, and there were a few good lines here and there, but the non-live aspect sucked a lot of the energy out.

Heshy Farahat, Motivational Speaker: Nasim Pedrad pulls this one out and lets Theron blow the dust off with another panoply of sound effects, pelvic thrusts, and embarrassing personal revelations. Never clicked.

The Black Keys perform "Fever." Nothing notable.

Weekend Update: My personal and utterly subjective ranking: Cecily hits 4 out of 6 jokes (and saves one of those with side-eye), Colin hits 6 out of 7. Drunk Uncle makes a somewhat more manic appearance than usual, probably sped up a little by the big star of the Update: After a clip of Barbara Walters parodies (we miss you, Gilda), Barbara Walters Actual shows up... and just bombs, staring right at the cue cards and reading like she's asking for the ransom money to be dropped off the Park River Bridge at exactly 10:30 p.m. and don't involve the police or they'll kill her.

Turner Classic Movies: Bikini Beach Party: The best joke for most of this was that no one was actually wearing a bikini, but then the whale just BLEW THE F UP, and even though we knew it was coming, it was glorious. And then they went over to the second whale, and that's it, Theron wins the night, because:

The Black Keys perform "Bullet in the Brain," introduced by a still-covered-in-whale-blood Charlize Theron.

Whiskers R We Spring Adopt-A-Thon: Theron manages to outcreepy McKinnon in a dark and weird and beautiful 10-to-1 sketch.

Tourists: More pretaped stuff, this one featuring various cast members (and Theron in a fat suit) wandering the streets of New York City doing various weird things.

Next week: Andy Samberg returns, with St. Vincent as musical guest.
posted by Etrigan (15 comments total)
Oh, and did I miss a fake commercial, or did they not have one?
posted by Etrigan at 7:06 AM on May 11, 2014

Cold open was solid, especially for Mother's day.

Over the years, but particularly in staff refreshing seasons...I keep seeing great ideas, without a close.

Bikini Beach Party - had a great build (we all saw it coming like a truck...) and no real close. HBO First look? Mom Game show? All needed a big 'closing moment. Even the darkest sketch, Whiskers, just needed that button hook.

Barbara Walters. Was it just me, or is she incapable of delivering a joke? Knowing which camera to look at? Most of all, since this is the first time I've seen her in years...did anyone else find her plastic surgery...frightening? It seemed she couldn't close her eyes.
posted by filmgeek at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2014

I really enjoyed the little character profiles of the cats in the cat lady sketch, especially the psychotic cat at the end. I also agree with the potential criticism of the pre-taped voice-over cop sketch -- I think it probably would have been a lot more funny, if it had been handled as a live sketch. They wouldn't have been able to cut to the animated characters, but I don't think the juxtaposition of the baby dragon and the voice really added that much.

Now, let me share something about myself. One of my favorite things about watching SNL, though, is actually not the show itself... It is, instead, what I call The Morning After Review Duel. Every Sunday, I wake up to two different reviews of the previous night's SNL in my RSS feed: one from the AV Club and one from Pajiba. And they almost never, ever, ever agree. Granted, they almost always have the same general overview ("Another weak installment!"), but their take on the individual sketches are world's apart. One site will say, "the first sketch was HI-LARIOUS, but the second one was a total bummer" and the other will say, "the first sketch was a total bummer, but the second was HI-LARIOUS." I find it all oddly fascinating.

So, I was a little disappointed this week that, despite some minor disagreements, their evaluations weren't too far from each other. AV Club, Pajiba.
posted by meese at 10:55 AM on May 11, 2014

Kate McKinnon is the next huge star to emerge from this show, right? She seems to elevate every sketch that she is in. The mom-game-show was pretty good, but she made it great. She feels to me like the spiritual successor to Kristen Wiig.
posted by jbickers at 3:13 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wow, that was a really lame episode. I will say on the upside, it was the first time I watched the entire cold open probably all season, but it went downhill from there. The concepts were good but rarely delivered the funny. Overall, it could be one of the least successful episodes all season.
posted by mathowie at 3:14 PM on May 11, 2014

I really liked the second song by the Black Keys.
posted by maggieb at 6:42 PM on May 11, 2014

Is it just me, or was it an odd choice to have the overarching theme of almost every mom-themed sketch in the Mother's Day Episode be "Moms are the worst"?
posted by Sara C. at 7:50 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

So true. But that mom game show did miss my mom (and dad, who was even more accurately portrayed) a little bit.

And if Kate McKinnon doesn't become a superstar, I have no idea. The cat skit was more weird than funny, but I'd rather see good weird than bad attempts at funny, and she was great in it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:04 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it just me, or was it an odd choice to have the overarching theme of almost every mom-themed sketch in the Mother's Day Episode be "Moms are the worst"?

I would argue that the theme of almost every person-themed sketch on SNL is "People are the worst," but YMMV.
posted by Etrigan at 4:24 AM on May 12, 2014

They probably needed a pre-taped something (anything) at the point in the show that "Dragon Babies" played, since it looks like they needed two sets (and a green screen) for "Bikini Beach Party".
posted by doctornecessiter at 4:25 AM on May 12, 2014

Dragon Babies was between Girlfriends Talk Show and Heshy; Bikini Beach Party came after Weekend Update.
posted by Etrigan at 5:49 AM on May 12, 2014

Is it just me, or was it an odd choice to have the overarching theme of almost every mom-themed sketch in the Mother's Day Episode be "Moms are the worst"?

Actually I was surprised how gentle the mom-game-show bit was. All the kids clearly knew the mom and I felt like the barbs were sort of light and the whole point was "Moms, they are goofy and weird and we sort of love them"

Overall, it could be one of the least successful episodes all season.

I thought it was sort of middle-of-the-road but not awful like I felt like the Jonah Hill episode was. They dressed Theron up in a few truly gruesome outfits which was funny on its own and the Black Keys were good. Colin's also hitting his stride (finally) at the Weekend Update desk which is nice because I was worried.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on May 12, 2014

I feel like Colin is at least not flop-sweating as much, but he hasn't really figured out what his Thing is going to be (e.g., Cecily is settling well into Side-Eye Gal; Seth did best when he was bouncing off the guests...). I wouldn't mind if he somehow ended up doing a lot of those incredibly stupid Breaking Nudes jokes.
posted by Etrigan at 8:13 AM on May 12, 2014

Colin's also hitting his stride (finally) at the Weekend Update desk which is nice because I was worried.

I'm still concerned...I think he still has some Brad Hall shell to break out of.

That "breaking nudes" thing was very Kevin Nealon.
posted by doctornecessiter at 8:18 AM on May 12, 2014

Even now, months later, just thinking of that Heshy sketch makes me giggle inside. I don't know why it pervades my thoughts at random times. I think Nasim & Charlize nailed it, and the only fault was that it lacked a strong ending. I will miss Heshy SO MUCH.

posted by not_on_display at 2:29 PM on September 16, 2014

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